Skip to main content

Years after the pandemic brought life as we know it to a grinding halt, societal life is finding another equilibrium. Businesses are open, restrictions lifted, and the roads are calling to travelers for winter vacation. In fact, this year marks one of the highest traveler volumes in the past 23 years. Be patient in holiday traffic aboard your car, truck, or SUV; you’re traveling along with one-third of the population. 

A record 115 million Americans will clog the highway arteries this winter vacation

Winter vacation travelers stack up in holiday traffic and snow.
Holiday travelers in the snow | COM & O via iStock

A record 115.2 million Americans will travel for Christmas and New Year’s, per AAA. That’s the second-highest winter vacation travel statistic since the agency started its travel tracking in 2000. 

AAA’s 2023 forecast has 90% of domestic travelers moving by car for winter vacation. That means roughly 103.6 million drivers on the nation’s highways and roads. It’s a 1.8 million-driver increase over 2022.

Still, travel isn’t quite up to pre-COVID levels. In 2019, around 108 million Americans drove to their destinations for winter vacation, a 4.1% surplus over the forecast for 2023.

However, it’s not just a logistical frustration; It’s a safety concern for authorities. Unsurprisingly, a greater number of drivers on the road leads to increased accidents, breakdowns, and driving under the influence. 

It’s not just drivers; AAA projects 7.5 million passengers on domestic flights

Unlike road-bound travelers, forecasts suggest an increase in air travel from pre-COVID figures. In 2019, 7.33 million Americans took to the skies to get to their winter vacation destinations. However, AAA estimates that 7.51 million will buy airplane tickets, a 2.4% increase over 2019.

The figure suggests that Americans are embracing air travel after the global pandemic. What’s more, the “other” category for winter vacation travel has increased in popularity. For instance, cruises have enjoyed a post-pandemic renaissance. Regardless of how you travel, be ready for high volumes of your fellow travelers and some frustrating holiday traffic.